Critical Play: Mysteries

I chose Gone Home to analyze for this critical play. The narrative of the game follows a girl who returns home after traveling abroad and finds that her family is not there anymore and the house is abandoned; the game is all about discovering what happened. The narrative is grounded in mystery, as the girl knows nothing about what happened to her family or the house. The environment and set design of the game adds greatly to this mystery with the dark lighting, storms-cracking and doors-creaking audio bites, and the trail of notes to represent human presence. Additionally, after studying the role of architecture in games for the sketch note, I paid attention to the architecture of Gone Home and how it supports the narrative and the mystery of the game. The architecture of a house is used effectively by the game designer as most doors are closed, therefore concealing valuable clues and traces of life that the player has to piece together.  

In terms of how the mechanics support the mystery, Game Design is a walking simulator and the player has full reign to explore the abandoned house. In this way, the walking mechanic contributes to the exploratory nature of the game which makes it mysterious by default, as you do not know the space you are exploring and the objective of the game requires understanding the space in order to piece together the mystery of the narrative. Furthermore, the player has very limited actions, for example “Pull light string” and “Open door”. I believe this mechanic also supports the mystery because there is very little to no explanation given, simply a short phrase to describe the action. Therefore, the player’s responsibility is not only to make decisions on actions to take, but also to interpret the outcome of those actions and how they relate to solving the mystery of how the house got abandoned.

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